Tuesday, May 25

the real, original thing

This week we're talking about vacations and travel, and as luck would have it I just got back from a weekend in San Francisco to visit my sister. Boy, did we pack a lot in! We saw the movie BABIES, we hiked at Bean Hollow, we walked around Pescadero, ate out, and even squeezed in a trip to Trader Joe's (something I have to do every time I'm in TJ's territory, as I am deprived Utahn and do not have access). But the main event was the members-only preview of a special exhibit at the de Young - The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musee D'Orsay.

Here's the little thingiebob about it:
Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay presents nearly 100 magnificent works by the famous masters who called France their home during the mid- to late-19th century and from whose midst arose one of the most original and recognizable of all artistic styles, Impressionism. The exhibition begins with paintings by the great academic artist Bouguereau and the arch-Realist Courbet, and includes American expatriate Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.” Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley are showcased with works dating from the 1860s through 1880s, along with a selection of Degas’ paintings that depict images of the ballet, the racetrack, and life in the Belle Époque.
It's a fantastic exhibit, and as always happens when I see art live and in person that I've only been seeing second-hand all my life, I was profoundly struck and emotional about the difference between seeing a copy of a print---postcard or book-size---and seeing the real, original thing. I remember during my first trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art stumbling upon a room full of Van Gogh's and my tear ducts instantly filling before I even had a chance to think about it. It was crazy. You'd think that with our fancy technology, our ability to make nearly identical copies of almost anything, it wouldn't much matter. But it does. You're looking at the canvas touched by the hands of the creator, labored over and looked at for generations, all over the world. It's pretty cool.

Through the exhibit, I also learned a little about the Paris Salon, and what a battle the impressionists had getting acceptance for their style and vision. Next to several of the most beautiful paintings by people like Cezanne and Manet, the placard noted, "This piece was repeatedly rejected by the Salon." Rejected! Cezanne! Just goes to show ya.

A few of the paintings particularly moved me, including Cezanne's The Bridge at Maincy and Monet's The Magpie. The one I stared at longest, though, was Jules Breton's The Gleaner (above). In person, it's huge. The subject is at least life-sized and her expression and body language are so powerful. Do you have favorite paintings? Have you ever had the chance to see your favorite painting in person?


Meredith said...

There definitely is something so powerful about seeing a work of art in person--close enough to see the brushstrokes, even. My favorite part of getting to travel to Italy was seeing all the art I had only seen in textbooks before. Botticelli's a favorite :)

Laurena said...

I have a favourite painting, and that would be starry night by Vincent van Gogh. I've even sung a song about him before and about the painting called Vincent. I haven't seen the real painting yet, but I've seen--and made--copies of it. In Grade four I had to paint my favourite painting...so I did that one.

Sara Z. said...

Meredith - Italy! You really saw the real, original thing...the cradle of civilization. :)

Laurena - I LOVE Starry Night. Van Gogh is my favorite, really, and when you do get a chance to see his stuff live you will probably burst into tears.

Wendy Toliver said...

Great post, Sara. I loved looking at paintings at the Louvre in Paris. It's an amazing place and no matter if you know the size of a famous painting in your mind, it's another thing to actually see it. (Like the Mona Lisa, for example.) I think that sometimes when I meet people in person that I only met online. You recognize their face but to see how tall or short they are can be a surprise!

Sara Z. said...

Wendy, you've been to the Louvre! Wow!

Great comparison - meeting online people for reals.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

I do have favorite paintings. I got to see some of them when I was in London years ago and I've seen several others in NYC.

Sara Hantz said...

Monet's Water Lily Pond which I've seen several time at the National Gallery in London. I LOVE it so much.

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